State starts wooing
Miss Universe Pageant

A pageant official meets Cayetano and
views the convention center

By Mike Yuen

The courtship has begun.

But it will require a unified effort by the state, the counties and the private sector to successfully lure next year's Miss Universe beauty pageant to Hawaii, Gov. Ben Cayetano said.

Cayetano yesterday met with a representative from the Miss Universe pageant to express his interest in having Hawaii host the annual two-hour competition that is televised to more than 60 nations.

Having the pageant "would give Hawaii a real shot in the arm in terms of the kind of publicity it would bring," Cayetano stressed.

Plus, the pageant would be a great inaugural event for the state's convention center, which will open its doors next year. On top of that, the event would be a fitting finale to the reign of the current Miss Universe, Hawaii's Brook Lee, said Cayetano.

"It's like having the Pro Bowl (National Football League's all-star game)," added state Economic Development Director Seiji Naya. "The impact is far more than having the event itself. It is enormous publicity. People will have the opportunity to look at Hawaii as a place to visit and as a place to do business."

Cayetano said "it would serve no useful purpose" at this early stage to publicly estimate how much it would cost to host the Miss Universe show. The pageant requires the host locale to pay a destination fee and provide lodging, ground and air transportation and food and beverages.

Joseph Blanco, Cayetano's executive assistant and his point man on the project, said if the pageant is held at the state convention center just outside Waikiki, it would benefit Honolulu more than the neighbor isles, so Honolulu would probably be asked to contribute more.

How much the neighbor island counties might be asked to contribute to entice the pageant could depend on how much promotion time they get on the show, Blanco said.

Donald Takaki, a member of the Convention Center Authority, added: "It is a long shot at this stage, but it is a great idea. We've just got to see what happens."

The official opening of the convention center is June 1998, but it would be moved up a month if Hawaii gets the nod to host the Miss Universe pageant, Takaki said. Yesterday, he gave Kieran MacCarthy, the vice president of production for the Miss Universe pageant, and Tony Vericella, the chairman of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, an on-site inspection of the convention hall, which is scheduled to be completed in October.

MacCarthy said she expects formal offers to host the pageant to be on the table by mid-August and a decision by pageant officials should come "soon thereafter."

Pageant representatives are also in preliminary discussions with several countries and Hong Kong, she added.

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